Theodore Gray and his wife, Annie Gray, had 849 Beech Avenue built between 1869 and 1870. The house was built on a lot that Theodore Gray purchased for $3,000 in 1869. The house is an example of the Second Empire style because of its mansard roof, projecting window hoods, arched dormer roofs and window openings, and brackets below its box gutter. The Second Empire style was popular in the Pittsburgh area between about 1870 and 1885. Theodore and Annie Gray also had a small wood frame stable, likely the building that still stands at the rear of the lot, built by 1872.
Theodore Gray was a railroad conductor during the time that he lived at 849 Beech Avenue. He was born in New York State, and Annie Gray was born in Pennsylvania. The Grays had three children who are known to have resided in the house: Mary, Lewis, and Margaret. The family appears to have lived comfortably, as evidenced by their ownership of the house and by their ability to employ a servant who lived in their home. Louisa Lubin, who lived at 849 Beech Avenue at the time of the 1880 census, was a 17-year-old Prussian immigrant.
The Grays sold 849 Beech Avenue in 1884, for $7,575, and left Pittsburgh. Edward L. Dawes of the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company in Allegheny City, predecessor of today’s American Standard, bought the house from the Grays, and lived there for two years.
Christian Stoner owned 849 Beech Avenue between 1887 and 1910. Stoner was a partner in a Strip District lumber mill, a director of the Smithfield Street Bridge Company, which had the bridge of the same name constructed, and a director of the Pittsburgh Gas Company. He lived on Allegheny Avenue. His son, David H. Stoner, lived with his family at 849 Beech Avenue between 1887 and 1904. A daughter, Elizabeth Stoner Gaither, her husband, attorney Frances E. Gaither, and their son moved to the house in 1904. Members of the Gaither family lived there until about 1921, and sold the house in 1922 for $7,750.
The former Gray house at 849 Beech Avenue has now had a total of 12 owners.
Detailed information on the history of 849 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.
- May 12, 1869
- May 23, 1884
- April 22, 1886
- October 19, 1887
- April 5, 1910
- September 23, 1921
- February 20, 1922
- December 18, 1922
- April 30, 1928
- November 1, 1967
- July 31, 1992
- February 25, 2003
Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the lot on which 849 Beech Avenue now stands to Theodore Gray of Allegheny City (now the North Side) for $3,000. The lot was described as being located on the southern side of Beech Street (now Beech Avenue), 100’2.75″ east of Grant Avenue (now Galveston Avenue), and measuring 23’7″ wide along Beech Street by 137′ deep to Pasture Alley (now Dounton Way). The lot was in the Second Ward of Allegheny City, which became part of Pittsburgh in 1907.
(Deed Book Volume 244, Page 191)
Theodore and Annie Gray of Allegheny City conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Edward L. Dawes of Allegheny City for $7,575.
(DBV 500 P 50)
Edward L. and Jennie W. Dawes of Allegheny City conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Francis J. Torrance, as executor of the estate of Francis Torrance, for $7575.
(DBV 547 P 144)
Francis J. Torrance, executor of the estate of Francis Torrance, conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Christian L. Stoner of Allegheny City for $7,350.
(DBV 575 P 350)
Christian L. Stoner died on April 5, 1910. In his will dated December 6, 1905 (Will Book Volume 105, Page 132), he left 849 Beech Avenue to David H. Stoner.
David H. Stoner, who died on September 23, 1921, left 849 Beech Avenue to Elizabeth S. Gaither (Will Book Volume 170, Page 270).
Elizabeth S. Gaither conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Carrie M. Henderson, wife of William F. Henderson of Wellsville, Ohio, for $7,750.
(DBV 2126 P 177)
Carrie M. and William F. Henderson of Pittsburgh conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Annie E. Hamill of Pittsburgh for $7,750.
(DBV 2151 P 231)
Annie E. Hamill, widow, of Pittsburgh conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Evelyn M. Reynolds of Pittsburgh for $9,000.
(DBV 2352 P 482)
William F. and Evelyn M. Reynolds of Pittsburgh conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Jacob and Arlene Smith of Pittsburgh for $5,850.
Jacob Smith died on July 11, 1981.
(DBV 4485 P 713)
Arlene Smith conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to John K. McCarthy for $63,000.
(DBV 8777 P 183)
Benjamin E. and Gretchen R. Schmaus purchased 849 Beech Avenue from John K. and Deborah D. McCarthy on February 25, 2003. Title to the house was placed in the name of Gretchen R. Duthoy (formerly Gretchen R. Schmaus) on March 17, 2005 (Deed Book Volume 12382, Page 233).
(DBV 11582 P 543)
Age of the House
Theodore Gray purchased the lot on which 849 Beech Avenue now stands on May 12, 1869. Gray paid $3000 for the lot, which measured 23’7″ wide by 137′ deep. This purchase, at 93 cents per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny West at the time, and indicates that 849 Beech Avenue had not yet been built.
The house was constructed in the Second Empire style, characterized by mansard roofs, prominent door and window hoods or lintels, arched window openings, decorative brackets, and sometimes by central gables, or towers. The Second Empire style and the related Italianate style were the prevailing architectural styles for homes and small commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the late 1860s and about 1885.
Interior details of Second Empire houses usually included flared newel posts and spindles, marble or wood mantels with arched openings, four-panel doors with porcelain knobs and ornamented cast iron hinges, and non-symmetrical door and window trim with diagonally mitered corners. In Pittsburgh, many Second Empire homes were built with stairways that incorporated landings located about three steps below the main level of the second floor.
Examples of the Second Empire style in the Pittsburgh area include houses on narrow lots in city neighborhoods like Allegheny West, Manchester, the Mexican War Streets, Lawrenceville and the South Side, and wider center-entry houses in areas such as Shadyside and Sewickley.
Known records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 849 Beech Avenue.
Comparable Home Values
The house at 849 Beech Avenue was sold for the first time in 1884, for $7,575. Sales of other Allegheny City houses within a few years of 1884 included:
- 2141 Perrysville Avenue, Perry Hilltop, $3,250 (1885)
- 523 Jacksonia Street, Mexican War Streets, $3600 (1882)
- 1239 Resaca Place, Mexican War Streets, $4300 (1886)
- 1228 Palo Alto Street, Mexican War Streets, $4,625 (1884)
- 1201 Palo Alto Street, Mexican War Streets, $5,300 (1888)
- 518 Jacksonia Street, Mexican War Streets, $5,400 (1884)
- 908 Beech Avenue, $8,500 (1886)
- 1511 Buena Vista Street, Mexican War Streets, $12,500 (1886)
- 842 Beech Avenue, $15,500 (1884)
- 940 N Lincoln Avenue, $24,000 (1887)
The modest size of the stable that stands at the rear of the lot at 849 Beech Avenue, and exterior features such as its partial cladding in board and batten, are consistent with construction in the 19th century. Plat maps published beginning in 1872 and fire insurance maps published in 1884 depict a small wood frame stable at the the rear of the lot. Although no known records document the construction of the stable, it appears likely that the stable is the same building depicted on the 1872 plat map.
Pittsburgh city directories and U.S. census records provide information on Theodore and Annie Gray who built 849 Beech Avenue between 1869 and 1870.
Local historical records also provide information on Christian L. Stoner, who purchased 849 Beech Avenue in 1887, and on his son and granddaughter who lived in the house.
Francis J. Torrance, as executor of the estate of his father, Francis Torrance, purchased 849 Beech Avenue from Edward L. Dawes in April 1886. He owned the house until October 1887.
Annie E. Hamill purchased 849 Beech Avenue in late 1922, and owned the house until 1928. Pittsburgh directories listed no one named Hamill at 849 Beech Avenue during that time, indicating the house was used as a rental property. Annie E. Hamill was not listed in Pittsburgh directories.
The 1930 census is the last census that provides information on residents of 849 Beech Avenue. Jacob Smith and his wife, Arlene Smith, purchased 849 Beech Avenue in 1967. Jacob Smith worked as a press operator for the Hipwell Manufacturing Company, which manufactured flashlights nearby at 823 West North Avenue. Jacob Smith lived at 849 Beech Avenue until his death in 1981, and Arlene Smith sold the house in 1992.
The following materials accompany this report:
- a copy of part of an 1872 plat map of the area around 849 Beech Avenue
- copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 849 Beech Avenue, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and 1926
- information on Stoner & McClure, from Industries of Pittsburgh, 1879-1880
- information on Christian L. Stoner, from Biographical History of Lancaster County (1872)
- an article mentioning the wedding of Bessie Stoner and Francis E. Gaither, from the Pittsburgh Press, June 9, 1892
- the obituary of Christian L. Stoner, from the Pittsburgh Gazette Times, April 6, 1910
- the obituary of David H. Stoner, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, September 24, 1921
- information on Francis J. Torrance, from History of Pittsburgh and Environs (1922) and All Sorts of Pittsburghers (1892)
- information on the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company, from The Story of Pittsburgh and Vicinity (1908)
A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson
all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise notedTags: beech avenue